The “Landscape Approach” integrates sound management of ecosystems with sustainable production of food, fiber and other outputs while ensuring socio-economic objectives. Recently, scientific opinion has coalesced around the need to shift away from management of individual production systems to a landscape approach based on ecosystem principles and involving multiple actors finding synergies and operating in harmony. Productive landscapes embrace multiple land uses: agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mining, energy production, recreation, conservation and more. The key is that they are managed through an integrated ecosystem approach that recognizes production for multiple sectors.

This new approach demonstrates the realization that the ecological foundations of water, energy and food security are in danger of being undermined. Indeed, the imperative to feed and secure the basic needs of a growing population, while addressing new pressures (especially climate change), is imposing unprecedented stresses on our productive resources. In the need to secure food, water, fuel, fiber and other land-based products, decision-makers face difficult choices about which actions to take: one path has been massive investment in agricultural intensification. Another has been expansion into “marginal” lands. Both strategies have important consequences for the ecological base of production, as well as for economic development, equity and poverty alleviation. This is where the landscape approach finds its niche – and it is recognized and supported by a growing number of institutions and mechanisms. These include, explicitly, the GEF, CIFOR, the World Bank, FAO and IFAD. The landscape approach is also one pillar of another recent concept, “climate-smart agriculture”. UNEP champions the landscape approach de facto as it embodies the main elements of integrated ecosystem management. Indeed UNEP finds itself uniquely positioned to guide the implementation, and evolution, of the landscape approach, and contribute to related global dialogues such as the “Water-Energy-Food Nexus” (the WEF Nexus).

This project seeks to catalyze the adoption of landscape approaches to promote sustainable agriculture production in Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America, and to enhance the ecosystem dimension of the WEF Nexus dialogue. To ensure this, the project will enhance the knowledge base underpinning such approaches, develop methodologies and tools, and provide technical support for inter-sectoral policy frameworks.

The project will build capacity among decision-makers and other stakeholders to understand trade-offs, identifying synergies and choices to be made in designing more sustainable food production and water-energy management systems, and to strengthen the ecological basis of production. It will assist countries to integrate traditional sector-based production systems within a landscape approach. This project supports the Ecosystem Management sub-program in the UNEP POW. It also aims to (a) establish strong linkages with other relevant projects in the POW, (b) provide a central anchor for other relevant GEF and XB funded programs managed by UNEP, linking together initiatives spearheaded by several UNEP collaborating centres (i.e. UNEP-WCMC and UNEP-IEMP China) and UNEP technical teams (c) act as the ‘host’ for developing joint work with FAO under the new MoU, especially on Work Area 2.


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